As an old IT guy I am slightly amused with the unfolding Lerner email scandal since I thought we had fixed these problems in the last century and the Inspector General did not catch this. Not surprisingly a PJMedia post has a former IRS IT specialist conveying doubt on this scenario. He confirms my guess that the IRS is using Microsoft’s Outlook/Exchange for email and that they have followed the generally accepted business practices for backing up and archiving the emails. For almost a decade I supported Microsoft’s Outlook/Exchange at our business so I have to conclude that if the emails are missing from her copy of Outlook then she deliberately deleted them to avoid prosecution. If they are missing from the backups and archives, she had help from someone in the IT department.
Here is what the former IRS IT specialist said in the post at PJMedia.
First, he points to the United States Code for government record retention. That code, 44 U.S.C. Chapter 33, governs what a government record is and requires that agencies must notify the Archivist of any records that are destroyed and the reasons for destroying them. The code was put into place after Iran-Contra to keep government workers and contractors from deleting records.
Section § 3309 states that records “pertaining to claims and demands by or against the Government of the United States or to accounts in which the Government of the United States is concerned, either as debtor or creditor, may not be disposed of by the head of an agency under authorization granted under this chapter, until the claims, demands, and accounts have been settled and adjusted in the General Accounting Office, except upon the written approval of the Comptroller General of the United States.”
“These environments were required by federal regulations to be redundant and recoverable,” the former IRS IT worker says. “The recoverability requirements were put into place for exactly the reasons we see today.” Disposal of records outside the statutory standards requires permission in writing.
He says that the IRS uses Microsoft Outlook/Exchange systems, which are backed up using Symantec NetBackup.
He also says that “the IRS is the cash cow of the federal government. When they ask for funding for anything it was granted without discussion.”
In the case of the prime contract and record retention, “The IRS IT projects were fully funded and never lacked for resources. To state ‘Backup tapes were reused after some short period’ is a complete joke. The IRS had thousands and thousands of tapes and ‘Virtual Tape Libraries’ (VTL or non-tape backups based on hard drive storage technologies). There was never a reason to reuse tapes.”
Indeed, the U.S. government has been getting out of the tape backup regime for years. The former IRS IT worker points to this ExaGrid document from 2011. In the document, ExaGrid discusses its work with the federal government to eliminate tape backups in favor of faster and more secure record retention systems.
ExaGrid specializes in disk-based records retention systems.
The former IRS IT worker adds that in his time on the prime contract, “I have worked for many federal agencies and the IRS had some of the best people.”
“This reason is why I scoff at the story being put out. Those folks would not have had such a short retention period for email unless they had it in writing from the highest levels. It would have made the local IT water cooler gossip if the IRS had screwed up and lost tons of email by accident.”
Yet the IRS claims that it lost the emails a year ago, and is only now telling congressional investigators.